Thursday, May 15, 2008

When did you know you were a writer?

Janie over at Write Stuff proposed the following questions to us this week:

"When did you know you were a writer? Was there a moment or period in your life when you realized that you were meant to write? Did a specific event or occurrence compel you to write? Or, like me, have you just always considered yourself a writer?"

My answer is both simple and complex. I remember when I first felt the love for writing. It was 1984, the year of the Los Angeles Olympics. The year that Willy was our Australian Olympic mascot. I was in my second last year of primary school and I must have been 10. We were writing small stories about the exploits of Willy in LA. I wrote one, then another and still another. From there I began writing at home, on one of my mothers cheap lined note pads (used predominately for writing the weekly shopping list) a story about a dog, a golden labrador that lived on a farm. He wasn't like Charlie the Wonder Dog (for those Aussies old enough to remember the D Gen's The Late Show from the early 90's) he was just a dog and it was just a farm. I must have written 10 or 11 pages before I stopped writing.

I found an alternate escape from the world - an escape where I could play God ... which I never really got over (he reminds me of the scene in Overboard where Goldie Hawn's husband says 'At Sea I am a God' and the psychiatrist who happens to be aboard offers to give him a couple of his own valium!) Writing is the ultimate escape hatch - you create the world, the characters and the scenarios that are played out - you choose who wins and who loses (which was big for me as a serial victim of bullying at high school), who is the hero, the heroine, the evil mastemind.

In the summer of 1985 I was staying with my cousin and read my first (and only) Sweet Valley high novel (and I use that term exceedingly loosely). I was appalled at how pathetically it was written and how it really wasn't what life was like. I went back to my Nanna and Pa's and began writing what would be my first novel ... about life and loves of a 13 year old. Over that summer I wrote about 130 A4 pages. I loved every minutes of it and in 1988 when we moved to Queensland I rewrote the novel. I would take the dog and my writing folder down to the beac and we'd hang out there writing (Oakey chewing on coconut husks) until it was time to go home for dinner. In that novel was my safe space while I went about creating a new social space among new friends in a new high school. I still have both handwritten manuscripts downstairs.

Even though I have always known that I loved writing, and have wanted to have it as a 'career' - it took 15 years after finishing highschool to make the big decision to 'just write.' It was last year on the full solar eclipse of the Virgo moon (my natal moon) when it occurred to me that I didn't need to decide whether to return to paid work or not, if I wanted to study and what I wanted to study, plus how all of that would fit around having a child ... I could write. It made such sense for the first time ever. So I did ... and I haven't stopped since.

Finding Write Stuff in late September last year and Fiction Friday opened up creative avenues that bypassed all the hurdles I regularly threw up for myself, so I wouldn't write - lack of ideas, inspiration - blah blah blah. I discovered a great love for short stories that was probably lost through creating them in high school english class for marking. I stopped trying to write the best selling novel, or finding the perfect plot ... I just sat down to write each Friday night and waited to see what magic flew from my fingers ... good magic and crap magic alike. One short story at a a time.

I spent 15 years making up excuses why I couldn't write - and after a certain amount of time you either give up totally, buying into the delusion that you have created for yourself or you stop making excuses and create a writing reality for yourself. The end of the excuses came in December last year - when I made the decision to give up my editorship of Down to Birth magazine - the end of my shadow artist. I would now only invest in me, my writing and whatever the future held for both of us. I stopped running, I looked myself square in the eye and believed that I had the tenacity and the talent to suceed.


Rebecca said...

It takes determination to just go and write, huh. I just found Write Stuff and I found your blog through that site. Thanks for sharing your writing!

b said...

This a wonderful post. So how is the writing as a way of making money going for you? I am always curious about that. I love your blog and what you write.


Jodi Cleghorn said...

Rebecca - that whole 'just do it' thing is so huge. No wonder if was a hugely successful Nike advertising campaign. I'm looking forward to getting over to your blog and having a read.

Barb - its always a pleasure to have you drop by. Your comment has inspired me to write about just that tonight! The whole getting paid thing.